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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Verstappen has right to be "cheeky" based on F1 dominance, says Mercedes

Max Verstappen has every reason to be "a bit cheeky" based on his level of dominance in Formula 1, reckons Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates on arrival in Parc Ferme

As the Dutchman roared away to a crushing victory in the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend, he joked with his Red Bull team that he had such a lead over the opposition that he might make an extra stop just to give his mechanics some extra pit stop practice.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner later explained that his request was refused because of the risk of something going wrong with the stop and leaving the team with "egg on its face".

Verstappen’s joke about making an extra stop prompted some to suggest that he could be getting a bit cocky in his attitude, having won nine of the 12 races held so far this season.

But for rival Mercedes, Verstappen’s attitude was not seen as anything too brazen.

Wolff said: “He has all the reasons to be a bit cheeky. He’s just driving circles around everybody else on merit, and there’s nothing else to say about that. You’ve got to watch that on one hand, as much as it is annoying.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

While rivals have tried their hardest to close in on Red Bull, Wolff sees the battle as more personal than that. He thinks that the rest of the field is now at the level of Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, while it is the Dutchman alone who is a step above everybody.

“You just need to take Max out of the equation,” he said. “The second Red Bull is where we are.

“It would have been a fantastic season and close racing [without Verstappen] but the stopwatch never lies. There is just one guy and one car that is above everything else, and we’ve just got to catch up. There is no choice.”

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Although the gaps between Verstappen and the rest of the field were bigger than they were 12 months ago at Spa, Wolff thinks that does not reflect the true competitive picture in F1.

He remains adamant that Mercedes has made solid progress with its car and is now in much better shape than it was 12 months ago.

“I think when you compare to the rest of the world, last year Spa was an awful race and this time, before that last stop, Perez, Leclerc and us were within six or eight seconds. So that is a major step for us because Spa was, like I said before, a disaster in 2022.

“We feel we’ve made that step, but then you have that top guy who made another step in advance. We’ve just got to turn around the fact.”

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